Better’s better than more

July 23, 2014

National’s policy of improving teaching quality has more support than Labour’s plan to increase the number of teachers.

New Zealanders would rather money was spent on improving teaching standards than on reducing class sizes, a Herald-DigiPoll survey reveals.

Education has become a political battleground before September’s election, with both major parties promising to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on it.

Asked about their priorities, more than 60 per cent of those polled said they would spend money on trying to improve teaching standards rather than cutting class sizes.

Labour has included reducing class sizes in its election policies.

Another of its policies, a promise to pay schools which do not ask parents for donations, gained support in the poll.

National has pledged $359 million for a scheme that would pay the best teachers and principals more.

Labour countered by promising to use that money to instead hire 2000 more teachers and reduce class sizes.

Asked about those policies, 61 per cent of those polled said the money was better spent on trying to improve teaching standards.

Thirty-five per cent thought it should be used to cut class sizes. . .

Education Minister Hekia Parata said the survey showed parents recognised the worth in the initiative.

“Parents have great knowledge about what makes a difference for their kids’ learning, and it is about the quality of learning that happens in their child’s classroom.”

If there was enough money for both better teachers and smaller classes that would be ideal.

But while we have to make a choice, it’s better to have better teachers than more.

National’s policy was designed to get the best educational outcome. Labour’s was written by the unions who put themselves and teachers ahead of education.

Labour’s policy would make a very small difference in class size, National’s would make a significant difference to the quality of teaching and that will make the most positive difference to pupils.


No sea cold enough

July 22, 2014

Hamish Walker, National’s candidate in Dunedin South received one of those Ice Challenges and accepted it with a twist.

He chose to do it by total immersion in the sea at St Clair,wearing a kilt, with the support of some Young Nats and the accompaniment of the bagpipes.

 

Can't say THANK YOU enough to John BP, Katy H & Liz B who were stupid enough to join me this morning for the Ice Challenge- what commitment to the National Party!

It goes to show there’s no sea cold enough to stop the pursuit of party votes for National and #TeamKey who are seeking #3moreyears.

You can see it on video here - while you’re there you could like his Facebook page too.


Hauiti standing down

July 22, 2014

National list MP Claudette Hauiti is standing down.

National MP Claudette Hauiti is calling time on her short stint in politics, removing herself from contention at the coming election.

She had been selected at as the party’s candidate for Kelston, but told her caucus colleagues of her decision this morning. 

Her decision comes just days after it emerged she surrendered her Parliamentary charge card after using it to pay for a Christmas trip to Australia.

That trip, and other unauthorised spending on the card – known as a purchasing or p-card – led to the list MP returning it to Parliamentary Service in March.

Outside the caucus room, Hauiti confirmed her intention to stand down from politics at the election, but refused to comment further.

She is yet to release a statement.

It’s understood she was told she would receive a low list ranking, and Kelston was considered to be a safe Labour seat. . . .

This is the right decision.

 

 


Two sides one message

July 21, 2014

Electoral law permitted election hoardings to be displayed from yesterday.

Alfred Ngaro’s National Party teams were so keen to paint the Te Atatu electorate blue they started at midnight.

Facebook and Twitter showed MPs, candidates and supporters the length and breadth of the country erecting hoardings and  enjoying themselves while doing it.

Labour teams could be forgiven for not being quite as happy in their work but that’s not the only contrast between the blue hoardings and the red ones.

The message from National is clear and consistent, the one, or should that be ones from Labour are not.

We passed this double-sided hoarding on the way home from Queenstown yesterday.

hoardings 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hoardings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s two sides to the sign but a single message – party vote National.

Labour candidates are giving mixed messages – some are seeking the electorate vote over the party one, a lot of them – like those used in 2011 – don’t show their leader.

The contrast couldn’t be greater.

There are blue hoardings giving a consistent message of unity, support for party leader John Key, and  being quite clear that National wants your party vote. Then there are red ones giving mixed messages which show disunity and leave voters in doubt exactly what they’re being asked to do.

It’s the party vote that counts for forming a government.

National Party MPs and candidates are showing they not only want to be in parliament, they want to be in a John Key-led government.

But the hoardings of at least some Labour MPs show they’re more concerned about their own seats than the fate of their party – their desire to be in parliament is greater than that to have Labour in government.

If Labour MPs and candidates don’t care about the party vote, why would voters?


Paying price for prevarication

July 21, 2014

Last night’s 3 News-Reid Research poll gave Labour more bad news:

PARTY VOTE:

National: 49.4 percent (down 0.3 percent)
Labour: 26.7 percent (down 0.6 percent)
Green: 12.4 percent (down 0.3 percent)
NZ First: 4.3 percent  (up 0.7 percent)
Conservative: 2.7 percent (down 0.1 percent)
Internet Mana: 2.3 percent (up 0.5 percent)
Maori: 1.1 percent (down 0.4 percent)
United Future: 0.2 percent (up 0.2 percent)
ACT: 0.1 percent (down 0.3 percent)

The reason’s for Labour’s poor showing are many, but one of those is Cunliffe’s prevarication over whether or not he’d do a post-election deal with the Internet-mana Party:

SHOULD LABOUR WORK WITH INTERNET MANA IN FORMING A GOVERNMENT:

NO: 59 percent
YES: 29 percent
Don’t know: 12 percent
-
Labour voters:
NO: 47 percent
YES: 40 percent
Don’t know: 13 percent

Cunliffe’s following the Winston Peters’ line on this – he’ll play the cards the voters deal.

But by doing this both men are leaving voters without information they need to cast their votes with confidence.

John Key told everyone months ago which parties he would and would not work with.

People know  what they’d get if they give National their party votes.

In contrast, Cunliffe and Peters continue to prevaricate which leaves voters having to take a gamble.

If they give Labour their party votes they can’t be sure they wouldn’t be helping the Internet-Mana Party into government and if they vote for New Zealand First they have no idea if Peters would move right or left.

In spite of what he says about the possibility of staying on the cross-benches, the lure of some baubles would almost certainly persuade him to change his mind.

A vote for either Labour or New Zealand first is a vote for uncertainty and instability.


It’s still the trend that matters

July 20, 2014

Labour has lost four points in the latest Herald DigiPoll, slumping to 26.5%,  its worst level of support in 15 years.

 . . . On this poll of decided voters National would be able to govern alone comfortably and gain another 10 MPs.

National has jumped 4.5 points to 54.9 per cent. A Stuff/Ipsos poll earlier this week also put support for National at 54.8 per cent.

Prime Minister John Key is more popular than he has ever been, scoring preferred prime minister on 73.3 per cent, compared with Cunliffe on 10.5 per cent and New Zealand First’s Winston Peters on 5.5 per cent.

The second-most-preferred PM out of Labour MPs is David Shearer, with 2.2 per cent, followed by Jacinda Ardern on 1.4 per cent. . .

Labour’s total support is down from 30.5 per cent in June, but it is disproportionately down among male voters, with only 23.9 per cent of men backing Labour, compared with 29.1 per cent of women.

Political commentator Chris Trotter said the poll indicated Labour was “more or less bereft of hope”.

“Labour is in an extremely parlous position, and the situation is deteriorating.” 

And the news gets worse for the left:

Contrary to other polls, the DigiPoll had the Green Party losing popularity, which was also bad news for Labour and the left’s prospects. . .

A single poll could be a rogue one but a trend has to be taken more seriously and the left will even though this support reflects the views of those who have decided:

. . . Undecided voters were 11.5 per cent. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 per cent. . . .

It’s still the trend that counts and the trend is very good for National but it’s still a couple of months to the election and the result of that, trend not withstanding, is still not certain.

The left might be panicking but there is absolutely no room for complacency on the centre-right.

However, there is


Craig rules Conservatives out of govt

July 20, 2014

Conservative leader Colin Craig is planning to contest the East Coast Bays seat.

He hasn’t made a formal approach but he’s keen for sitting MP Murray McCully to stand aside in the hope that people who voted for the National MP would back Craig instead.

There are several flaws with this, not least being there is absolutely no guarantee the people of East Coast Bays would vote for him in sufficient numbers.

The outcome is even less certain now that New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is talking about throwing his hat in that ring too.

Craig’s case hasn’t been helped by his party’s chief executive Christine Rankin saying the Conservatives could go right or left and work with National or Labour in government.

Voting for Craig would be difficult enough for National supporters in East Coast Bays if his party was committed to supporting a National government,. Few, if any, would countenance it if they thought there was any chance they’d be helping Labour cobble together a coalition.

The Conservative’s case for an electoral accommodation is even weaker now that Craig has said binding referenda would be a bottom line in coalition negotiations.

At the Conservative Party conference today, leader Colin Craig had a clear message to Prime Minister John Key.

He won’t do any type of deal with National unless it agrees to binding referenda. . .

There is absolutely no way a major party would agree to that policy and even if they did, Andrew Geddis points out that a cconstitutional  change of such magnitude should not be passed by a bare majority.

It’s constitutionally improper to even suggest that this happen – it would be like the Maori Party saying that their price for supporting a Government would be for that Government to legislate via a bare parliamentary majority to make the Treaty of Waitangi a “higher law” constitutional document that could be used to strike down other laws. I don’t care whether you think that would be a good outcome; it would be a bad way to bring it about. . .

But even if it did it wouldn’t work under our system which gives parliament sovereignty:

. . . How in a system of parliamentary sovereignty can Parliament (in the shape of a National/Conservative majority) pass a law that says that the general public is able to, by referendum, bind future Parliaments in their lawmaking decisions?

Even if a National/Conservative Government were to use their majority in Parliament to pass a referendum law that says that if the public vote in the future for or against some measure Parliament “must” follow that vote, exactly how would this law be “binding”? If a future Parliament were to just ignore the result of such a referendum – as is the case with current Citizens’ Initiated Referendums, for which no apparent political price gets paid – then what could be done about it? How, given our system of parliamentary sovereignty, could a court order today’s Parliament to do what a past Parliament said it must do? And what could a court even order in such a circumstance? What odds a judge saying to Parliament “because an Act was passed a few years ago saying that you had to make a law if the public voted for it, you now have to draft, debate and enact this particular Bill on this particular issue.”? . . .

Craig is demonstrating his ignorance of constitutional niceties and his own political naivety by making binding referenda it a bottom line and in doing so has ruled his party out of government.

It’s the sort of policy which might gain votes from the disgruntled.

But the party is a long way from the 5% support needed to get into parliament without the safety net of an electorate seat. Thankfully the chances of him being gifted one were already low and this bottom line will ought to have killed the idea completely.


How many care?

July 19, 2014

John Armstrong has joined the growing crowd calling for Kim Dotcom to put up or shut up:

The time has come for Kim Dotcom to put up or shut up, for this intelligent, canny but highly manipulative individual to front with his yet-to-be-made public disclosures which he boasts will blow John Key out of the water – and though Dotcom does not say it directly, presumably bring a rapid end to Key’s days as Prime Minister.

Dotcom must now prove far beyond any reasonable doubt that Key has lied repeatedly when challenged as to when exactly he became aware or was made aware of the former Megaupload mogul’s existence.

If Dotcom cannot or will not do that, he should zip it.

Because he is not a New Zealand citizen, Dotcom cannot stand for Parliament. But as a resident he otherwise has the same political rights accorded any voter. Turning the election campaign into even more of a circus is not one of them. . . .

If he really has a mega-bomb to drop which would be big enough to turn the tide from National the least he can do is drop it in time for voters to consider which other party would get their vote.

If he thinks that his own political travesty of Internet Mana would benefit, then he’s even more deluded than he appears to be.

Key will stand or fall on the strength of Dotcom’s case. The time has come for the country to hear it and appraise it. The time has come for Dotcom to cut the babble and prove Key is the one talking nonsense when he insists that until the eve of the police raid on Dotcom’s Coatesville mansion he did not know of Dotcom, let alone that Dotcom was living in his Helensville electorate, or that Dotcom was the subject of a FBI investigation even though the intelligence agencies for which Key has ministerial responsibility had known for at least 15 months before the raid that was the case.

If the Prime Minister has not been telling the truth, then, as Dotcom and his supporters argue, it is a matter of paramount importance even if what they are arguing about could hardly be more trivial. . .

But will Key stand or fall on the case and is it of paramount importance when the issue is so trivial?

Armstrong counters his own assertion:

If Dotcom’s case similarly relies on hearsay or circumstantial evidence in any way, he would be best to work on an exit strategy – one in which he exits now. Or at least as quickly as he can without losing too much face.

Key, in contrast, has said little that he might later regret, but done much to try to second-guess exactly what Dotcom seems to think he has on him.

When Dotcom first suggested Key had known of him some time before Key claims to have heard of him, the Prime Minister and his staff in Wellington and Helensville searched desks, filing cabinets and computer records for anything that might be incriminating even in the slightest. They found nothing.

Lastly, Dotcom should ponder over this scenario. If Key is caught out, he will probably apologise and then make his credibility the issue for the final days of the campaign.

He will be able to wager his huge stocks of popularity on voters viewing any conflict over what he said about Dotcom and what he knew about Dotcom as a minor indiscretion.

Again, the argument is probably too trivial to destroy Key. But Dotcom needs a change of government if he is to have any hope of avoiding extradition to the United States. And Key’s hard-to-believe ignorance of his existence is one of the few means Dotcom has of securing such a change.

Why is it hard to believe?

Even with my bias I couldn’t condemn David Cunliffe for forgetting he’d written a letter about a would-be immigrant years ago.

Similarly no reasonable person could expect anyone to remember everyone he’s ever heard of, especially when the records have been scoured to find anything which might counter the PM’s assertions.

And how many people care anyway?

Jane Clifton writes:

. . . The premise here is that Key lied about knowing that he had, in his very own electorate, a man Most Wanted by the US authorities. Key has always insisted he knew nothing of Dotcom till the police raid on his home. The question here is, why does this matter? It’s likely it can be proved Key “was told” about Dotcom. But whether he actually took the information on board, along with the ninety-thousand other things he’s informed of as Prime Minister and SIS Minister, is probably unprovable.

Realistically, had Helen Clark, Jim Bolger or any other recent PM been told that some funster computer tycoon whose business practices were under overseas scrutiny had moved to New Zealand, it’s doubtful they would have seared the information into their memories either.

As for “knowing about” the raid, that information was the province of the Attorney-General, Chris Finlayson, who would have found it highly improper to share with other ministers, least of all the target indivdual’s local electorate MP.

And even if Key did “know” – so what? What does that prove? That he didn’t stop the raid? Why would he, since the police officials concerned – albeit wrongly, as a judge later ruled – would have advised him it was the correct procedure? Had Key known and overridden it, that would have been the scandal: “PM Interferes With Police To Protect Rich Constituent.”  .

Whatever’s in store from Big Kim’s Mega-Evidence Upload, it seems unlikely to achieve the status of game-changer. Most people will not cast their votes according to the status or treatment of Kim Dotcom. And those voters who can be bothered to process the information will simply divide according to what they want to believe: that the Government would take all manner of risks in order to give residency to and then persecute a blameless business tycoon; and those who strongly suspect the usual roil of cock-ups and unsuccessful conspiracies to cover the cock-ups up. . .

Dotcom and his rag-tag collection of enemies of his enemy would like to believe that a revelation that the PM had heard of Dotcom earlier than he said he did is a mega-bomb that will blow National’s chances of winning the election out of the water.

That just shows how desperate and deluded they are.

It is important to Dotcom because of his ego.

But even if he does find something to prove his assertion how many other people really care enough about who heard what and when to change their votes?

Those already decided would be unlikely to be swayed by something of so little import and those undecided and moved by it would be even more likely to declare a plague on all their houses and find something better to do on election day than vote.


For the people

July 17, 2014

Parties on the left appear to think more is better when it comes to taxpayers’ money.

They want to take more so they can spend more.

In stark contrast to that National has focussed on getting value for money in the knowledge that in many areas the quality of spending is more important than the quantity.

The left’s policies tend to foster dependence where National is determined to help those who can stand on their own feet to do so.

That’s government for the people to their benefit, helping them lead more independent, hopeful and productive lives.

 

Under a National-led government people are more confident they can make a difference in their own lives.


If an election was held tomorrow . . .

July 17, 2014

The question polling companies ask is if an election was held tomorrow which party would you vote for?

The answer to that is very encouraging for National and very depressing for Labour and the parties it would need to cobble together a government.

Last night’s Roy Morgan poll and today’s Fairfax Media Ipsos poll, both confirm the trend of National above 50% and Labour and the GIMPs below it.

But the election isn’t being held tomorrow and while the odds favour National that could actually work against it.

No party has won 50% support since we’ve had MMP and the high support could lead to complacency.

National supporters might think they don’t need to vote or they can afford to play with their party vote.

That certainly isn’t the case.

Complacency or over-confidence from centre right voters could let Labour and the Green, NZ First and Internet Mana parties cobble together a coalition of the unwilling and ill-disciplined.

 


Who cares about the regions?

July 14, 2014

The regions are a foreign country to most opposition MPs.

They visit occasionally, grab a headline about how bad things are and pop back to the safety of a city.

While there they try to show they care, but their policies give the lie to that:

There would be a bleak future for New Zealand’s regions if a Labour/Greens/Internet/Mana Party coalition became Government after the next election, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says.

“A number of election policies released in the last couple of days show that the regions would be in for a dramatic and long term slowdown if there was to be a change in Government after September 20,” Mr Joyce says.

“Cartoon-like policies from the Greens and the Internet Mana Party against fresh water usage and oil and gas exploration and in favour of big new carbon taxes show how little they understand what drives most jobs and incomes in regional New Zealand. Thirteen of our 16 regions have a big stake in industries based on our natural resources and there would be thousands and thousands of job losses if their policies came to pass.

“The Greens and Internet Mana want the regions to sacrifice most of their livelihoods for holier-than-thou policies that would achieve little except making New Zealanders a lot poorer. The worrying part is that these sort of attitudes would drive any post-election Labour coalition.

“On top of that, the Labour Party mounted a very lukewarm and half-hearted defence of the oil and gas industry on Saturday. Either David Shearer is being controlled by the left wing of the Labour Caucus or he knows it’s all a bit pointless because any left wing coalition energy policy would be run by the Greens with help from Laila Harre and Hone Harawira.”

Mr Joyce says regional New Zealand knows how to balance the environment and the economy to ensure sustainable economic growth.

“This government is working with the regions to lift economic growth and job opportunities while improving environmental outcomes,” Mr Joyce says. “The left talks about the regions but promotes policies that would do real damage to them.

“The stark reminder we have received this weekend is that regional New Zealand would be completely nailed by a Labour/Greens/Internet/Mana coalition.”

 Labour and the GIMPs would take New Zealand backwards.

All primary industries would face more regulation, more restrictions, higher costs and more and higher taxes.

That would result in less production, fewer jobs, lower profits and as a result of that the tax take from them would be lower even though the tax rates would be higher.

One of the reasons New Zealand has survived the global financial crisis and is beginning to prosper is the strength of primary industries.

Any progress would be reversed if Labour and the GIMPs were in government.

They only care about the regions for show.

National by contrast has MPs in all but a couple of provincial seats, knows the regions, understand their issues and governs for all New Zealand – not just the urban liberals to whom Labour and the GIMPs are targeting their policies.


The means not the end

July 12, 2014

Most people accept that National is a good economic manager and recognise it has a good head.

Many don’t get the link between that and a good heart.

The economy matters not as an end but as a means to better services, better opportunities and better lives.

 Technical measures of our economy are important, but most people use ones that are closer to home and closer to their hearts.

What they’ll need to do

July 12, 2014

Vernon Small muses on one of MMP’s downsides – the need for coalition partners:

. . . In Cunliffe’s case, he can be relatively certain Internet-Mana will be there.

His bigger concern is the political Centre’s negative views of Harawira, his Left-wing allies and Internet founder Kim Dotcom – and more generally about the increasingly fractured Centre-Left vote.

Labour’s vote softened measurably after the Internet-Mana deal became known. It believes that was not because the new party took Labour votes but more because it was a bridge too far for floating voters to contemplate a four or five-way alternative government.

And Labour knows – because it has already started – that National will use that against it.

It is a difficult line for Cunliffe to walk. He needs to emphasise the stability of a three-way deal with the Greens and NZ First – both of which have the advantage of being parties that win in their own right and will, if in Parliament, have achieved more than 5 per cent support. He can contrast that with National’s vassal parties, there only at Key’s favour.

Voters could choose a weak Labour Party propped up by the Green and NZ First parties with the added frightener of Internet Mana or a strong National Party with two or three very small coalition partners.

That’s a choice between instability, uncertainty and backwards policies from the left or stability, certainty and forward momentum from the centre right.

But strategising at the party’s weekend Congress pointed up the problem. Labour was stacking up its potential pluses just to get over the line.

It could push up to about 30, with a good ground game and organisation, the Greens bring about 12 per cent, NZ First would add another 5-6 per cent and Internet-Mana would add the final cherry on top. Presto, 51 per cent.

Over at the National conference the previous week, the mirror-image argument was being played out by its strategists.

Achieve close to 50 per cent and we govern alone. Fall to the mid 40s, and Labour with its allies could get the numbers. Subtext? Deals with our minor allies may be crucial, so brace yourself for Key’s announcement of deals with the minnows.

Memo to Cunliffe and Key: if you are counting them into your thinking, so will the voters.

Memo to voters: look less at what they say they will do and more at what they may need to do to win power.

A weak Labour Party would have to do, and concede, a lot more than a strong National party would.

We're for stable government.


Labour stands firm with no proof

July 10, 2014

The Labour Party is standing firm on its claim the Government has influenced police statistics, despite admitting it has no proof to back it up.

That stance isn’t confined to these accusations which not only smear the government but are an attack on the integrity of police too.

Labour is standing firm on several policies although the facts don’t support their stand.

Examples include:

* The belief that increasing tax rates will increase the tax take.

* The assertion that a capital gains tax will restrain property prices rises even though family homes are exempt and a CGT has not restrained property prices in other countries.

* The contention that adding fewer than one teacher per school will be better for children than improving the quality of teachers.

* The belief that what’s good for unions is good for workers.

* The belief that increasing the minimum wage will not have a negative impact on employment and business.

* The belief that adding costs and complexity to employing people won’t harm jobs.

* The claim that inequality is worsening.

* The belief that changing  KiwiSaver contribution rates would be a viable tool for reducing inflation.

* The assertions that National’s policies aimed at helping people from welfare to work are beneficiary bashing.

* The belief that governments are good at running businesses.

These are just a few of Labour’s policies and beliefs which aren’t supported by facts.

But the most erroneous belief is that they, a party riven by internal divisions, could lead a stable government with the support of the Green, NZ First and Internet Mana parties.


Opportunity or outcome?

July 8, 2014

One of the big differences between National and the parties on the left is that National focuses on the quality of spending while Labour and its potential coalition partners focus on the quantity.

Another significant difference is National’s belief in equality of opportunity and Labour’s in equality of outcome.

. . .Parker stressed Labour’s commitment to a balanced economy and greater equality of outcomes.. .

If you focus on equality of opportunity you’ll get better outcomes by helping people to help themselves.

If your focus is equality of outcome you’ll end up spending a lot more without making a positive difference.

A focus on equality of opportunity recognises some people need more help and some need less because they’re not starting in the same place.

It fosters independence and shows faith in people’s ability to help themselves when given a chance.

Focussing on equality of outcome fosters dependence.

 

It would result in throwing money and other resources at people and problems without requiring them to help themselves.

Communism tried to achieve equality of outcome and failed.

It did so because it ignored human nature and the fact that we can be equally poor or unequally wealthy.

The only way to get equality of outcomes is to drag down the top because those who work harder and smarter will always do better than those who don’t, regardless of where they start and what help they get.

Equality of opportunity might require some tough love, equality of outcome is just indulgence.

Equality of opportunity, recognising that those with less will need more help, is fair, equality of outcome is not.


Quality beats quantity

July 7, 2014

National’s Better Public Service targets has aimed at improving the quality of spending rather than simply increasing the quantity as Labour did.

Policies announced by both parties clearly show the contrast between quality from National and quantity from Labour.

In education, National is firmly focussed on improving outcomes for children which relies on raising the standard of teaching.

Labour’s policy looks like it has been written by the unions – it will increase the number of teachers but do nothing to improve their teaching.

Education Minister Hekia Parata sums it up: Labour is out of their ideas and out of their depth:

Education Minister Hekia Parata says that Labour’s “new” education announcement today shows once again that they are a party out of ideas and out of their depth.

“Labour’s ‘back to the future’ idea of reducing class sizes at the margin is proven to achieve very little in terms of better results for Kiwi kids.  We know that because that was their policy last time they were in government and student achievement flat-lined at best.

“If you really want to improve success at school the answer is to help all teachers be better teachers, and invest strongly in principals.  That’s clear from evidence across the developed world and that is what our Investing in Educational Success initiative does.

“Investing in the quality of all teachers is more important than just adding more teachers.”

More isn’t necessarily better if the quantity is increased without improving the quality.

Ms Parata says Labour’s approach on teacher ratios is similar to their other policies for education where they do not appear to have done their homework.

“Labour are taking a real lolly scramble approach to education, and they are seriously understating the costs of what they are suggesting.

“Last week, and again today, they said they were going to end voluntary school donations.  However they have only put up enough money for half the current amount of donations, and none of the school activity fees that parents pay.

“Also yesterday, they said they were going to provide every student between years five and thirteen with a digital device worth $600, by providing a $100 subsidy and having parents pay $3.50 a week for 18 months.”

“Well, that only adds up to $373 per device.  So there is a big shortfall there too.”

“And on top of that they want to cancel National Standards which is helping more Kiwi kids learn and succeed.

“Labour’s approach is to go back to the old ways of doing things and throw lots of entitlements around in an attempt to win votes.

“Kiwi kids can’t afford to go backwards with Labour’s confused and muddled approach.

“Under this Government more kids are starting earlier, staying longer, and leaving better qualified.

“This Government is ensuring that our education system is working for all New Zealanders,” Ms Parata says.

 There is very good evidence that class size isn’t nearly as important as the standard of the teacher.

Treasury’s Briefing to Incoming Minister in 2011 showed the shortcomings of Labour’s prescription:

. . .New Zealand’s compulsory education system produces good outcomes for most students, as evidenced by our strong performance in international tests. However, despite large funding increases, achievement levels remain unacceptably low for some groups. Student achievement can be raised by improving the quality of teaching, which the evidence shows is the largest in-school influence on student outcomes.  . .

What happens at home has the biggest impact on achievement but within schools, teachers have the greatest influence on student learning.

Research on student learning consistently shows that the largest source of variation in student learning is attributable to differences in what students bring to school – their abilities and attitudes, and family and community background – factors that difficult for policy makers to influence, at least in the short-run.

Of those variables which are potentially open to influence in educational settings, factors to do with teachers and teaching are the most important influences on student learning (Alton-Lee, 2003; Hattie 2009). For example, research suggests that teachers at the top of the quality distribution can get up to a year’s worth of additional learning from students, compared to those who are at the bottom of the quality distribution (Hanushek and Rivkin, 2006). Chetty et al (2011) find that students assigned to high quality teachers (determined by test score- based value-add measures) are more likely to attend college and earn higher salaries, and are less likely to have children as teenagers, suggesting policies to raise the quality of teaching are likely to have substantial economic and social benefits in the long run.

Research shows class size influences achievement, but not always, and not for all students.

Overall, the evidence suggests that the effect of class size on academic outcomes varies depending on the characteristics of students (e.g. age, prior attainment, socio- economic disadvantage). For example, a consistent finding from the research is that smaller class size has a positive impact on t he achievement of students in the initial years of schooling, and that some students – particularly lower achieving and disadvantaged students – benefit more than others. The evidence for the effect of class size on achievement is limited beyond these first few years, and little is known about the effects of class size on secondary age students (Blatchford and Lai, 2010).

The research also identifies large differences in the extent to which the potential benefits of smaller class sizes are realised. For example, one of the most well-known studies of class size effects – Project Star in the US – found a small positive effect on student achievement in about half the clas ses where student numbers were reduced, while in the other half, smaller class size had no effect on student achievement (Hanushek and Rivkin, 2006).

One reason for these different effects is that some teachers adapt their teaching to take advantage of smaller class size, while others do not. The research provides little guidance on the optimal class size, or the lower or upper thresholds at which class size starts to have a positive or negative impact on educational outcomes. For example, some US studies suggest that classes of 20 or fewer students are necessary to have an effect on achievement, while English research has suggested that a class size of 25 or fewer is important (Blatchford and Lai, 2010).

Reducing class size is expensive 3 – it requires more teachers and more classrooms. Policy makers need to know not only that it works, but that it is the most cost-effective approach to lifting student achievement. Studies that provide comparative cost-benefit analyses of different interventions to lifting student achievement are not readily available, but other evidence suggests a focus on teaching quality over class size. For example, research suggests that the impact on student learning of moving from a class with an average teacher to one with a high performing teacher is roughly equivalent to the effect of a ten student decrease in class size (Rivkin, Hanushek and Kain, 2005). Hattie (2005) notes that the typical effect size of smaller classes could be considered ‘small’ or even ‘tiny’ relative to other educational interventions. Further, the OECD has identified that high-income countries which prioritise the quality of teachers over smaller classes tend to show better performance (OECD, 2012).  . .

Labour, almost certainly at the behest of their friends in the teacher unions, have ignored the research and taken the expensive and least effective option of promising to fund 2000 new teachers (which equates to less than one a school) without paying any attention to the imperative to improve the performance of teachers.

The key to improving student outcomes is to ensure consistently high quality teaching for all students, in all schools Treasury’s position is not that class size doesn’t matter. Our concern is to ensure that resources are directed to where they will have the greatest impact on student achievement. In our view, this is best done through a focus on ensuring effective teaching across the system. Although we have almost no information about the quality of teaching 4 in New Zealand, there is no reason why we would not have the wide variation in teaching quality that is observed in other countries. The strong impact of teachers on student learning, the large within-school variance in student achievement, low equity, and relatively high proportion of low achievers, all suggest that New Zealand should turn its attention to ensuring there is consistently high quality teaching practice in all schools.

The OECD’s work suggests that a high quality teaching workforce is a result of deliberate policy choices, carefully implemented over time (Schleicher, 2011). It suggests that making teaching an attractive and effective profession requires support for continuous learning, career structures that give new roles to teachers, engagement of teachers as active agents in school reform, and fair and effective teacher evaluation systems. A recent report by Australia’s Grattan Institute highlights how four East Asian countries have achieved significant improvements in the performance and equity of their schooling systems by building teacher capacity. They have done so via a focus on high quality initial teacher education, improved feedback and mentoring, and career structures that value good teaching (Jensen, 2012).

A recently released OECD report on evaluation and assessment in New Zealand education highlighted issues across a number of these areas, including: variable teacher appraisal; poor linkages between appraisal, professional development and school development; and an apparent lack of a formalised career path for effective teachers (Nusche et al, 2012).The OECD made recommendations to address these issues, in order to strengthen the quality of teaching in New Zealand.

Finally, a growing body of evidence has highlighted the importance of using data to inform teaching practice and decision-making in schools (Faubert, 2012). This includes gathering and analysing data to assess individual student progress and identify who is falling behind. It also includes aggregating data and using it to inform school and teacher self-review processes, help allocate resources, and facilitate conversations about effective teaching strategies and possible development needs. The OECD has recommended that New Zealand needs to do more to ensure teachers and schools have the skills to collect, analyse and interpret data, in order to support improved outcomes for learners (Nushe et al, 2012).

Most of this is anathema to teacher unions and Labour.

National is not beholden to the unions and therefore focuses on what’s best for the children and that is the quality of teachers rather than the quantity.

It is also addressing problems at home which contribute to poor educational outcomes including benefit dependency.


21st century education that’s #working4NZ

July 6, 2014

In contrast to Labour’s policy, National is already delivering 21st education that’s working for New Zealand’s young people.

 

Photo: We’re committed to giving children the best possible start in life. http://ntnl.org.nz/1lAsat6 #Working4NZ
Photo: I’m proud of our record of lifting achievement in education. #TeamKey #Working4NZ http://ntnl.org.nz/1lYaAnw

 

And National judges success by the quality of its spending while Labour measures success by quantity.

 

Photo: In 2013 a record 25,800 bachelor's degrees were awarded. Since 2008, the number of degrees earned by Maori students has increased 62%. The number for Pasifika students has increased 56%.


The importance of certainty

July 4, 2014

Trans-Tasman notes the appeal of certainty and stability:

National emerged neat and tidy from its election year conference. Delegates went home knowing what they have to do to ensure the party can re-form a governing coalition. It’s this disciplined approach which carries its own message to the electorate, contrasting with the inchoate array of parties lined up on the other side of the fence. Private polling shows within the electorate, opinion is beginning to harden on the parties of the left being so disparate, (even if they gained a majority of seats in the next Parliament), a coalition of those parties would be highly unstable and couldn’t last.

Certainty, along with stability, is the priority for most voters. The difficulty for the parties of the left is they project not just instability, but incoherence in the policies they are espousing. The realisation has grown Labour would have to share power with the Greens, NZ First and possibly the Mana/Internet alliance. How would it work? In the NZ Herald this week John Armstrong noted Labour seems to be increasingly paralysed by the division between MPs who put a priority on economic development and those who want environmental concerns to be very much part of that development.

The Opposition has forgotten what Helen Clark did in the run-up to the 1999 election, staging a reconciliation with Jim Anderton and his Alliance to project a united front and give electors an idea of what a Clark-led Govt would look like (even though it must have savaged her personal pride to cosy up to her old foe). . . 

 The more voters see of what a Cunliffe-led Labour/Green/NZ First/Mana/Internet Party might look like the less appeal it has.

There are enough uncertainties in most people’s lives without adding an uncertain coalition and the instability that would come with it especially when its contrast with the certainty and stability of a National-led government with John Key as Prime Minister.


What’s Labour’s position on buying back assets?

July 2, 2014

Finance Minister Bill English explains the benefits of using funds from the partial sale of a few state owned assets to invest in new ones:

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government continues to make good progress in investing almost $4.7 billion from its share offer programme into new public assets. We are able to invest this money without having to borrow more from overseas lenders. At the weekend the Prime Minister and Minister Brownlee confirmed that $212 million from the Future Investment Fund will be invested in 14 important regional State highway projects around New Zealand. That is on top of the $360 million that we have already proposed for regional roads across New Zealand. This investment will continue to build on the Government’s extensive investment in vital infrastructure, which includes ultra-fast broadband, schools, hospitals, roads, and rail, and more of it will be financed from the Future Investment Fund.

John Hayes: How will the latest investment in regional roads meet the objectives set for using capital raised from the Government’s share offer programme?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: This investment follows through on the logic of the sales, where the Government sold shares to investors, the investors passed cash to the Government, and now we have the opportunity to invest that cash. As the Prime Minister said at the weekend, the investment in regional roads is a perfect example of money from the share floats being invested for the benefit of New Zealanders, its economy, and its families. The 14 projects are spread across the country from Otago to Northland, from the West Coast to the East Coast.

John Hayes: What other investments in new public assets has the Government confirmed using proceeds from the share offer programme?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the House is now familiar with, there is $4.7 billion of proceeds from the share offer programme. In Budget 2014 the Government confirmed a further $1 billion of new investment. This included $200 million for health, including $67 million for the new Grey Base Hospital on the West Coast. This took health spending from the Future Investment Fund to $684 million. It also allocated $172 million to education, including the upgrade and replacement of schools in Canterbury. KiwiRail received another $198 million. All up, the $1 billion allocated from the fund in Budget 2014 brought the total allocated to almost $3 billion, which left nearly $1.7 billion in the fund for new public assets over the next couple of years without having to borrow more money.

Using the proceeds for new investments without additional borrowing is very sensible practice and exactly what National said it would do.

The logic of that has until now escaped the Opposition but it now appears to have approval from one party on the other side of the House:

John Hayes: What reports has he seen supporting the Government’s approach to investing proceeds from the share offer programme in new public assets?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen reports from an unlikely source: an alternative budget that was issued in the last week or two. The reports indicate that this alternative approach to the Government’s finances will continue the current Government’s approach of using proceeds from the share offer programme. The Opposition budget includes the $4.7 billion proceeds from the asset sales being spent on public assets, which was rather a surprise given that they had spent 4 years vigorously opposing the policy.

Labour has prevaricated over whether it would  buy back shares in the state-owned companies which were partially sold by the government.

But its alternative budget indicates it’s now decided it won’t.

That is sensible but how would that go down with potential coalition partners in the Green and NZ First Parties who opposed the sales at least as vigorously and continue to do so?


Sins of omission and commission

July 1, 2014

Nick Leggett writes of Labour’s sins of omission:

. . . The biggest crime a Labour Party caucus, activist base and affiliated unions can commit is to not put their party in a position where it can realistically when an election. They can claim all they like to want to bring new talent into parliament through the list, but on current polling, it’s rhetoric – no new faces will make it come September. . .

It seems the underlying premise of recent comments by some “outsider” activists and politicians like myself are correct: Labour isn’t
 aiming for 40% plus of the vote because they neither want – nor know how – to go about winning it. Those in charge of the party know the only way to keep the agenda and the caucus small is by keeping the vote low and encouraging the Greens and Mana-Internet to grow their support in the next Parliament. “Hopefully,” they say, “we can stitch together a rag-tag coalition of the weird and the wonderful.”

As a life-long (moderate and pro-enterprise) Labour supporter, I would rather the party win significantly more people like me and get the vote to say 38%, than appear as they do, which seems to be a preference for Hone, Laila and the Greens to be elected to the next Parliament instead of good candidates further down the Labour list. . . .

If this is the strategy it’s a very dangerous one.

People in the middle who might swing towards national or labour don’t want a lurch to the hard left.

. . . A talented Wellingtonian, with proven electoral appeal told me that last year he offered himself up as a prospective Labour candidate for Ohariu. He was advised however by the senior party person he asked not to bother because he wasn’t a woman. If I revealed who he is, I’m sure most people would agree that had he been selected, Peter Dunne would now be looking down the barrel of voter-enforced retirement. . .

The female quota is a sin of commission rather than omission and this example illustrates its dangers.

. . .  The party appear not to care about re-establishing bases in and amongst communities in provincial and suburban New Zealand by selecting candidates who god forbid might actually win some votes. . .

For all the rhetoric about the regions, Labour MPs just pop in to hunt a headline and leave again with locals feeling we just don’t matter to them.

Meanwhile there are list MPs approaching their third and fourth election this year in seats that should be winnable but somehow they have never managed to win. Some of these MPs have again been rewarded with high list placings, so where is the incentive for them to win those electorates? The bigger question is, why doesn’t the party appear to care?

It seems Labour has given up on gaining votes from aspirational workers who want to own their own home, those who strive to run a small business and the people pottered throughout every class, culture and community in New Zealand who care deeply about reforming the systems and policies that continually fail our children. . .

These are the people in the middle of the political spectrum and they are much likely to feel at home with John Key and National than they are with the muddled messages coming from Labour.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,276 other followers

%d bloggers like this: